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A Pet Emergency Plan – The Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

Sep 14, 2012

Dog owners should have a pet emergency plan

Emergencies happen, whether it’s a secluded accident or a regional crisis. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the coast of Louisiana, destroying homes and displacing families across the coastline. A crisis of this magnitude gained national attention and individuals from all over the country arrived to offer assistance in this time of need.

The disaster

Steps were taken to aid in the assistance of the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, but there was far more to save than just people because their pets also faced the same problems. There were approximately 8,000 pets rescued during the crisis, but during the event, air rescue teams refused most pets in order to make room for people in need.

In the aftermath, the Humane Society of the United States along with the Louisiana SPCA and several other groups recruited hundreds of volunteers to assist in rescue efforts. They managed to rescue 6,031 pets and reunite 400 of them with their owners. But overall, an estimated 600,000 pets perished or were left without homes in the aftermath.

From this, we can see that there is good reason to realize the potential hazards of your region and take precautions. A planning lesson can be well learned from The Audubon Zoo, which lost only three animals out of a total of 1,400 because they invested in good disaster planning and because of their elevation. The zoo considered the hazards of their environment and to ensure the safety of their facility and its residents, took precautions to ensure safety. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) was signed into law in 2006 to assist disaster recovery efforts through FEMA in order to help both pets and service animals.

Being a responsible pet owner

While government organizations such as FEMA are prepared to offer assistance, it is up to every responsible pet owner to put a plan together in response to emergency situations.

The number one thing you should do is ID your pet. Keep their tags up to date and list multiple contacts. More pets are displaced because there is no way to contact their owners even after they are rescued. ID-ing your pet will aid in the recovery process and is a must for every responsible pet owner regardless of whether or not there is a disaster situation.

Put a survival kit together. What would you need to survive? Do you have a medical kit? What about fresh water? Food? Doggy paw covers (socks could work) or anything to keep your dog’s paws safe from broken glass and debris should be included in your kit. It’s necessary to always have supplies for yourself but do keep in mind that your dog will need supplies as well. It is wise to have a kit for both your home and your vehicle just in case you have to move immediately.

In case of evacuation, consider a doggy harness that can carry items such as food and water for them. (there are growing numbers of doggy harnesses that already have pouches for treats and potty bags). In the event that you are forced out on foot, it would be helpful to have your pet carry some of the burden and help the family out.

If you can’t get back home, consider if there is someone such as a neighbor, pet service, or friend that could help evacuate or care for your dog. Make sure both you and your dog trust them because in the event of a disaster, a dog will likely be scared. They will have to trust the individual they are with to ensure their complete safety.

Don’t cage your dog during a disaster. Though you may think they’ll be safest in there and out of the way, it can become a trap if you are forced from your home and have to abandon your pet. Instead, leash them and keep them with you at all times.

Consider electricity problems as well. During a disaster, power is likely to go out, and due to extreme weather, it is likely that your dog will be subjected to high heat or extreme cold. Take precautions in case of a power outage, such as keeping your pet warm or cool. Keep ice in the freezer and heat packs for cold weather.

Disasters are most dangerous when you aren’t prepared for them. Though assistance is helpful, it is up to each individual pet owner to help themselves and their pets. When you are ready for that “just in case” moment, both you and your dog are less likely to get separated and remain safe in the event of a disaster.

Keeping up with your pet supplies can be just another thing you don’t want to have to remember.  After a long day at work and going to the store, the last thing you want to do is have to go “to the store” again.  Consider home delivery of your pet supplies!

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